Wednesday, August 21, 2013


If it's a holiday weekend in Canada, you can know that a whole whack of people are making a pilgrimage to Sauble Beach, Ontario. That was certainly the case once upon a time, when George Mercado and I took our youth band and drama team to perform in the bandshell on the beach, on the July long weekend.

There are actually several different storylines that could be explored out of the events of that single weekend, but the one that comes to mind as I begin to revisit a recent classic (Lifestyle Evangelism) is the story of a young couple, whom I'll refer to as Jack & Diane (any John Cougar Mellencamp fans out there?).

I had met Diane many years earlier, and our last conversation had been about the Bible college she had chosen to attend -- it was well-known for its extremely narrow and legalistic approach to faith and culture. I was both intrigued and concerned that Diane felt she should attend this particular school.

Her reasoning at the time was along the lines of: "I am a generally an undisciplined and rebellious person by nature, and I think (this school) would help me grow out of that." (Cue ominous and eery -- nay, creepy -- musical soundtrack here)

Now, roughly six years later, as the band & drama team was performing at Sauble Beach to a rowdy and somewhat inebriated crowd, I had a chance meeting with Diane and her husband Jack.

Jack & Diane referred to themselves as "back-slidden" quite freely, but they were intrigued by the band and drama team's simple yet clear commitment to faith in Jesus Christ. A few months later, Jack & Diane began attending our church.

Wendy and I had numerous conversations with Jack and Diane, over the few short months that we had contact with them. As I had guessed, their experience at the extreme Bible college had shaped and discipled them, just as Diane had hoped it would.

Well, perhaps not just as she'd hoped.

The school had basically turned them into good little Legalists, bound by draconian rules and regulations that had been added to the simple message of the Gospel. And after graduating, neither Jack nor Diane were able to keep up the religious performance in the "real world". So, they simply gave up.

But at the same time, they couldn't stand our church. They liked us. They liked George. They liked pretty much everyone they met. But they struggled mightily with living in a grace-filled church.

They were incapable of faith without (excessive) rules.
They couldn't separate the two. It was either faith(+ legalism) or no faith. Their experience at that Bible college had poisoned them so thoroughly that they simply could not feel that they were truly "Christian" unless they were following all of the school's (man-made) rules.

So they quit our church and cut off all further contact with us.

Jack and Diane may be an extreme example, but I know a lot of people who have experienced the same conundrum: they can't separate the wheat from the chaff, spiritually speaking. And so, they turf their faith and embrace... whatever.

It's been a while since I've last read Lifestyle Evangelism, but I seem to recall that it had a lot to do with getting past (unbiblical) cultural barriers and engaging people where they were at. As George Mercado used to say, "earning the right to be heard". And there have been no shortage of books on topic of sorting through issues of faith & culture -- ie. John Fischer's Real Christians Don't Dance and True Believers Don't Ask Why -- so what gives?

Why are so many people unable to separate the chaff from the wheat?

Looking forward to perhaps finding some answers as I begin revisiting Lifestyle Evangelism.


  1. I understand that conundrum. When I was around 12, I wanted to go to church, so my dad asked my aunt (his sister) to pick me up and take me to their church. The sermon was in Plaut Deutche, which I don't understand. I asked my dad if there wasn't anyone who could take me to an English church, and he told me that the Chortizter Church was my heritage and even though he hated it, that was where I had to go.

    But more recently, have I mentioned that my dad has given his life to Christ? He has been attending a branch of the Chortizter church, but he doesn't really like it there, he has been asking about other churches in Steinbach.

  2. "I know a lot of people who have experienced the same conundrum: they can't separate the wheat from the chaff, spiritually speaking. And so, they turf their faith and embrace... whatever."

    That quote is the story of many of my friends lives.
    It's also almost the story of my life.
    But somehow, by God's grace, here I am. A survivor. And a lover of Christ and His body.

    Looking forward to your thoughts on the book...